Constantinople in the 13th century provides the backdrop for this vigorous re-creation of the struggles among a myriad of racial and religious groups as they vie for domination of the Byzantine Empire. Deftly interweaving fiction with history, Henry Treece tells the story of the children of the great Viking captain Ranald the Varanger, Constantine and Theodora, and their attempts to remain alive in an era of war and chaos. The warring factions are innumerable. The Christian Knights Templar fought against the Mohammedan Assassins in the city itself. From the West the Crusaders (Venetians and Franks) attacked and plundered. In a courageous stand against them Ranald is killed and his children flee the burning city. For a time they find sanctuary in the Persian Gardens, but they are soon captured by Tartar tribesmen and forced along a route across Central Asia. Eventually they find their way into the court of Jenghis Khan, where the primitive Mongol shows them unusual kindness. Young people who are challenged by the puzzle of names and places and complex historical events will enjoy this colorful narrative.